Dean’s Blog guest post: Why Project Lead the Way makes a difference

A picture of Susan Lyons

Susan Lyons, a master teacher for the Project Lead the Way program.

Susan Lyons has been teaching middle school and high school for 15 years. She works for Pella Community Schools and is a master teacher for Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a program that introduces middle and high school students to STEM curriculum and hands-on experiences. Iowa State University College of Engineering Community Outreach serves in leadership with Iowa PLTW as the affiliate partner. Throughout Lyons’ career, she has looked for ways to engage students in STEM lessons, and she says PLTW is a great way to do just that.

I earned my bachelor’s in biology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. Following that, I traveled to the southeast and attended Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to complete my master’s as well as my National Board Certification in Adolescence and Young Adulthood/Science. So far, I have been in PLTW for four years and a master teacher for three years.

In, 2011, Pella’s school district introduced PLTW. That’s when I packed my bags from the neighboring school where I was teaching and moved to Pella to develop a curriculum for the middle school. I have been a PLTW teacher ever since.

I have a huge passion for teaching PLTW! Not only do I love imparting knowledge to my students and seeing them grow, but I am also able to teach other teachers as a master teacher. Being able to teach a curriculum that engages students so well is an experience that never gets old. I can teach students how to create their own solutions to problems, which complements traditional teaching.

On the student side of PLTW, I see a vast improvement in the experience the students receive. Students, including those who may not do well in traditional classes, excel in PLTW. When my students walk in the door, they come in excited and cannot wait to begin working on their projects. Some of my students even come in during their free time! It’s a wonderful sight and change of pace to the traditional classroom.

Beyond that, I’m extremely impressed with the support PLTW receives on the national level; it is something I have never seen with any other curriculum! I am able to efficiently network during our core training, at statewide conferences, and the national summit, allowing all attendees to receive ongoing professional development.

I have worked with the College of Engineering throughout the program, and it has been an amazing experience. Not only are the professors great to work with, but the students are just as supportive and kind as well. Everyone has been interested in the process of PLTW, not just the product. I have never seen such professionalism and commitment to engineering than Iowa State University’s College of Engineering!

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